How and who rebuilds the state after a revolution?

I frequent "revolutionary" discussion, and am surprised (almost afraid) by how little this comes up. They all want to smash the existing capitalist state

a new world from the ashes of the old

But what are the nuts and bolts of that, because surely anyone but anarchists must have an idea?

  • 2
    The faction that wins the revolution. Feb 6, 2022 at 16:01
  • surely the only group that can "win" the revolution is the working class @MauroALLEGRANZA but interesting comment
    – user57755
    Feb 6, 2022 at 17:06
  • if you think it's naive to think such a nebulous group can win anything, I would say it's far more naive to think that Lenin won the revolution single-handedly. he was a character of his time and place... and in no sense did he exist independent haha
    – user57755
    Feb 6, 2022 at 17:14
  • 1
    Maybe... Bolsheviks win the Revolution. Khomeini's movement won the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Feb 7, 2022 at 9:34

1 Answer 1


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

It is widely argued that what really smashed European feudalism was the Black Death (Japan remained feudal until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, so we can't assume it was only a matter of time passing). Most social progress has followed wars, disasters, or pandemics.

Capitalism as we think of it, joint-stock companies with shares traded in stock markets, emerged from the catastrophe of the South Sea Bubble, and the regulation that followed laid the groundwork for a shift from wealth-as-land and patronage, to capitalism.

The 2008 crash resulted in almost no change or increase in oversight, like the return of regulations Bill Clinton abolished which could be argued were most directly responsible. Antiminopoly and antitrust laws were hard won from an era of public outrage over corporate greed and malice, and disappeared under neoliberal governments almost without protest. That paved the way for Facebook and Amazon to set out consciously to create monopolies, buying up or destroying any serious competition. This kind of insulation from change and reform, creates existential risks to the current order. The relation of game-theory to violations of social contracts is discussed here, in relation to such insulated classes or groups: Is the tyrannicide perpetrated by William Tell morally legitimate?

Cory Doctorow does a great Mindscape episode Technology Monopoly And The Future Of The Internet about the link between corporate political power to evade oversight and consequences, leading directly to erosion of trust and rise of conspiracy-theory thinking. Allowing the Sacla family to create to opioid pandemic, can be directly but not consciously linked to cynicism about pharmaceutical companies resulting in low vaccine uptake. It's estimate the social consequences of the opioid epidemic in the USA 3.5 x the profits generated. An Exxon lobbyist privately revelling in having prevented a carbon tax, is another example, of allowing short term profit to win over existential risks from harms being created. Fossil fuel companies are only so profitable because they don't pay for their pollution.

Joseph Tainter in The Collapse Of Complex Civilisations, found resource overuse was invariably involved. But the crucial factor, was when social coherence, and bonds that allow cooperation and trust, had eroded to the point radical reform became impossible even in the face of existential threats to an entire civilisation. So, that sounds worryingly familiar, right.

Extinction Rebellion base their strategy on a work by Chenoweth, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. This kind of detailed review of cases, is a lot more interesting to me than ideology. So, look, who did rebuild? How did it go? It's worth saying her work is widely misrepresented, because of the high threshold of deaths she chose, and that there is a big difference between conventional civil disobedience, and a government knowing full well there is a threat of violence even if it didn't in the end occur. Chartists are a good example of that, who secured wider male sufferage. The Sufferagettes had a widespread bombing campaign, that included blowing a corner off the British coronation throne in Westminster Abbey, and cracking the Scottish Stone of Scone also there - by Chenoweth's definition though, that and Sufferagette deaths wouod make it 'non-violent'. She is really talking about war, armed military uprisings, and calling everything else 'civil disobedience'.

I would far rather have lived through the English Civil War, than the French Revolution. Trials and deaths of aristocrats were involved in both. It's hard to know how things will turn. Those who start revolutions are usually desperate, like those afflicted by drought in Syria. Where it goes next is crucial though. And that we can prepare for. The failure of democracy in it's more recent expansions, like in Russia, highlights how strong institutions, decentralising and separation of powers, and oversight on government like through habeus corpus rights and a free media, are crucial prerequisites to it working. Loss of rights and conditions, must be opposed, like in Hong Kong, or the UK's current attempt to ban protest that doesn't have government permission. To me revolution isn't smash the state, it's go toe-to-toe with the state, knowing both sides risk almost everything if it comes to it. In the best case, everyone helps rebuild, unless they have been convicted in court of crimes. However asymmetric things look now, now that all kinds of instabilities are coming. And if the current wealthy wait until money has become worthless to realise we all need to cooperate, it will be too late for them - Somemorenews has a great episode on libertarian hedge-funders grappling with this, and their inability to think beyond the levers if wealth and power is veryvreminiscent of a 'Let them eat cake!' mindset.

I lay out my picture of securing economic and political progress here: Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism

You must log in to answer this question.